Friday 29th May
It's 7:50pm and I'm driving along the M56 at 55mph with the radio on.
There are warnings on the overhead matrix displays.
Warning: Pedestrians in the road
With a speed limit of 50. I don't notice anyone in the road. It could have been a breakdown or roadworks earlier on. The displays can be left on for hours after the event.
The radio is playing:
Miracle - the song performed at Tiger Tiger 10th birthday party.
Not over yet - it sounds like the 1999 dance version.
As I'm approaching Didsbury there's a diversion because holes have appeared in Barlow Moor Road. It's the hot weather.
It's 8:05pm as I drive along one of the sidestreets in Didsbury. I park the car, step out onto the pavement, lock the car and walk over to a light coloured metallic blue Honda Jazz Sport. Alex K is driving. I get in the Honda, it's headlights on and engine running, and set off towards Stockport.
Alex K: "I've got a story to tell."
Me: "What's that?"
Alex K: "I was at work last week."
Me: "The catering job?"
Alex K: "Yes and Maz usually gives us all a lift home at the end of the night because we all live quite close." Alex K says this as he weaves along the busy streets, pausing occasionally in conversation when he's dealing with busy junctions.
Alex K: "Maz said he found a place to park nearer to work, because he parks it a few minutes walk away……. So we're walking to the van which is parked at the back of the warehouse near the MEN arena…… We arrive to the place and the van's not there. We don't believe him and say he's joking, but he's like - no, I really did leave it here. Then we see some notices about wheelclamping."
Me: "It was towed?"
Alex K: "It must have been. There was a telephone number on the notice and Maz called it. No-one was answering as it was weekend. There was also a web address so I went online and found out where the office was, using a domain contact details lookup…….. I drive Maz over to the office address but we can't find it. There's some foreign people runnin an office nearby, we're saying - do you know where it is - they don't and reply in such a strong accent we can't understand what else they're saying. We drive around the area though don't find it."
Me: "Couldn't you have reported it stolen?"
Alex K: "We called the police who said they can't do anything about it as it's private land."
Me: "There's illegal clamping in Altrincham on the street - the council knew about it for 3 years and didn't do anything."
Alex K: "On the street?"
Me: "The company took down the council signs and put up their own on the street. People have even paid for parking permits that aren't valid. Lots have been clamped at £160. Anyway."
Alex K: "Maz kept calling the number. Finally by Sunday he gets through to the clamping company office who say it's £900 to release it."
Me: "£900, I've heard of £300 but not that much."
Him: "It's all run by gangsters in Manchester. Maz needs the van for work on Monday……. Maz arranges to meet them so I drive him in the car and provide backup."
We're now approaching the outside of Stockport town centre.
Alex K: "The guy arranges to meet at the same location Maz left the van."
Me: "Where it was parked?"
Alex K: "Yes. We go there and he arrives with a teenager in a beaten up Vauxhall estate. The guy has a shaved head with lots of scars as if from bottles. Maz goes and sits in the car with them and they're talking for half an hour. Maz negotiates it to £500 and goes with them to pick up the van. I'm waiting to make sure he comes back ok and to call for help if anything happens. When they go to pick up the van, they left £500 in their car on the seat and another bag full of money."
Me: "You could have taken some out. Then again it's probably best to not get involved."
Me: "They could have come back and counted it before handing over the keys, or recorded the number plate and traced it.
Alex K: "Yeah. So Maz comes back with the van which was stored, hidden under a railway arch near the office we were searching for."
Me: "It's a shame you didn't find the van."
Alex K: "I know. Maz would have jumped over the fence and driven it out crashing through the barrier."
Me: "At least he got it back. Though £500 is a lot of money."
Alex K: "Maz told the company we work for - whose van it is - but Maz didn't get a receipt so couldn't claim it back. The boss said he should have phoned so the company could sort it out."
We arrive in Stockport town centre, drive up the car park ramp onto the rooftop car park above Debenhams.
Alex K: "This would make a good film location."
Alex K: "This car park is empty, is it safe to leave it here?"
Me: "We can try to park closer."
Alex K drives down the ramp, it rattles with the sound of metal clanging. As we're driving down, a red Ford Fiesta driven by two youths at high speed races up the opposite way, jumping at the top of the ramp onto the rooftop car park.
We park in a car park near the train station. We walk along the street in Stockport.
Alex K: "Look at the sunset, it's low like in California."
The sun looks large and low in the sky, shining between the buildings onto the street.
We go to Gala casino, greeted by staff presenting free wine or non-alcoholic juice. It's a charity event raising money tonight. Most of the attractions are later on so we leave and will visit later on.
We go to Casino 36. We're sitting on the rooftop patio area. I'm drinking Carlsberg. Alex K has Carling.
Me: "I like Stockport. There's a more honest going out atmosphere. The casino had nice people there. Manchester has more shady characters, conmen and gangsters. It comes across from the way people are."
We sit and enjoy being here on the rooftop patio.
Me: "How's business?"
Alex K: "You know that loan?"
Me: "The 13 grand unsecured loan."
Halifax offered Alex K a 13 thousand pound unsecured loan when he was at the bank paying in money one day.
Alex K: "I took it out and invested it all in a mining company."
Me: "You're serious!?" I say surprised and half laughing at the level of risk he's taken.
Alex K: "Yes." he says smiling and half laughing too.
Me: "Why didn't you use cfd's or spread betting?"
Alex K: "It's on the AIM."
Me: "The AIM. You put 13k of borrowed money on a company on the AIM."
Alex K: "What's wrong with the AIM?"
Me: "It's not regulated the same as FTSE companies. It's high risk. There's not the same accounting requirements. They might spend too much on expenses, or not file company accounts on time. There's a chance of losing all the money."
Alex K: "You've got to take risks. If I lose it I'll get a job and pay back the loan."
Me: "What kind of company?"
Alex K: "Gold mining. They've stopped mining but they're going to start again in 3 months. The price was 60p and it dropped to 5.8p a share."
Me: "How come they've stopped?"
Alex K: "It's in Zimbabwe. There were political problems though now the government needs the money so it helping mining companies."
Me: "Zimbabwe. There probably isn't a less corrupt country to invest in."
Alex K: "They've got £20 million cash and the shares are valued at that. When they were mining it was making £25 million profit a year."
Me: "It looks like you've done some research. If it goes up to 60p again you'll make what, about £100k."
Alex K: "I don't think it will go up that much."
Me: "Even if it doubles that's 13k."
We order some food and eat on the rooftop terrace with the moon visible on this warm summer evening. It's one of the nicest meals I've had out.
I go to the roulette table in Casino 36, Alex comes too but doesn't play. I have to bet a few pounds if I come here for the free buffet and 50p a half pint drinks.
I limit myself to losing £3. I put two 50p's down betting on 6 numbers per 50p.
Alex K: "You've won."
I wait a few spins, then bet again.
Alex K: "You've won again! How do you do it?"
Me: "It's the system."
Alex K places a few bets copying my system and wins a few pounds.
I keep winning and turn £3 into £12.
I leave the table and go to another roulette table. I'm getting a reputation in here. There's a female croupier at this table and the manager is standing with her.
Lady croupier: "Hello."
Manager: "You've got to watch him. He has a habit of winning first time."
I put a bet on.
The wheel spins.
The manager laughs and half looks at me as if I'm cheating.
I turn £3 into £18.
I cash in the chips. Me and Alex K leave Casino 36.
We arrive at Gala Casino.
I go to the roulette table and start playing here. I'm gaining money.
Alex K: "They've sent someone to watch us."
Alex K: "There's a Chinese guy there."
There's a guy watching our every move to check for cheating.
Alex K is writing down details of bets working out the system. The roulette wheel spins. It's now 10 spins since we put on a bet.
Alex K: "Now."
We put our money on the table.
Our number comes up.
Alex K laughs out loud at how effective it works. It could just be luck though. However we're attracting a lot of attention. The casino changes the croupier at the table.
We leave the roulette table.
There's a free buffet at midnight which is such good quality and well organised - includes kebabs, excellent Thai Green Curry, calamari, chicken caesar salad, and fresh fruit dessert. There's music and a party atmosphere. I make a donation to the Sue Ryder charity the casino is sponsoring tonight. Then I make another donation because it's such a good night, and I've made good money out of the casinos.
Between drinks and conversation I've attracted a lot of attention from customers and casino staff by turning £3 into over £20. I've also managed to donate a fair bit to charity. I'm not a gambler and it's only small amounts, although because the winning was so consistent. To the customers it could be turning £30 into £180, or £300 into £1800.
It was an enjoyable night at the restaurant and casino. Alex K drives us out of Stockport.
Alex K: "That was a good night. What season are we in now?"
Me: "The start of season 5."
Alex K: "Already? What happened in season 4? Was it good?"
Me: "It was good at first, then became quite dark towards the end."
Alex K: "That's because I wasn't in it. Everything's going well now because I'm here."
Alex K: "Do you want to go to Manchester for a bit?"
Me: "What time is it?"
Alex K: "1am."
Me: "Ok, not for long because I'm going to the car show."
Alex K: "Where shall we go?"
Me: "There's a voucher at the casino on Whitworth Street for me to pick up."
Alex K: "We'll go there then. Might as well clear up tonight with all the casinos."
As we drive along Wilmslow Road and discussing business. I say
Me: "You can become so obsessed with the dream, that you don't focus on getting the work done."
Alex K: "That's right."
Me: "It's a profound statement."
Alex K: "Yes it is." he says laughing.
Me: "It used to be me doing the talking and you making the profound statements, now it's the other way around!"
Having not been out with Alex K for months, me and Alex K have started acting differently.
Alex K: "Have you been going out much lately?"
Me: "No, I've been working from home lots. I like it. I used to want to meet up with people for inspiration."
Alex K: "But most talk rubbish, right?"
Me: "Yes. Like everyone is a screenwriter, actor and so on."
Alex K: "I met this guy at work who said he was a graphic designer. So I said to him - give me your email and I'll get you some work. When someone I knew needed graphic design I contacted him and he didn't reply. When I saw him again I asked if he wanted the business and he said yes he definitely did. I said for him to send his portfolio and he never did."
Me: "I find it's better to sit on your own, get lots done and then sell it. Relying on people wastes time."
Alex K parks the car in Manchester.
We go to the casino on Whitworth street, walk up to the counter.
Me: "I had a letter about a £20 no lose voucher waiting for me at reception.
Counter lady: "I'll check the list."
She checks through 20 sheets of paper.
Counter lady: "Your name isn't down. When did you receive the letter?"
Me: "A month ago."
Counter lady: "We ask people to bring it in if they're not on the list. We haven't got full records of all the ones that went out."
Me: "I never said that on the letter."
Counter lady: "I can't issue it without the letter."
Me and Alex K walk inside the casino. I notice the manager. She's standing at the side of the room watching over the gaming floor.
Me: "I received a letter in the post about a £20 voucher. We came from Didsbury. The lady at the counter is saying we need to bring the letter."
Manager: "I'll see what I can do."
She walks off and 2 minutes later comes back with an envelope. I thank her, open it and take out the £20 voucher.
I go to the roulette table, place it on black, put £10 on red and 50p on zero.
The lady at the roulette table says politely
Her: "You can't use the voucher like that, you have to put £20 with the voucher. It's a no lose voucher meaning you can't lose the £20 you put with it. It's not explained well on the voucher."
Me and Alex K go to sit on the sofa to work this out. We're putting out notes on the sofa in practice to plan what to do on the roulette table.
I go to the roulette table, place £20 on black with the voucher, £10 on red and 50p on 0. The wheel spins, comes up black. I win a guaranteed £9.50. Not bad for 10 minutes in the casino.
Me: "Can I have cash chips." I say to the croupier.
Alex K: "If you'd have put it on black you would have won £20."
Me: "It's better to have £9.50 guaranteed than £20 or nothing."
Alex K: "True."
I go to the cash desk, the manager and assistant is standing either side of the cash desk window. I put the £9.50 chips on the counter and the cashier gives £9.50. The manager stands there not looking too pleased. The assistant says to me
Assistant: "You just fleeced the casino for £10."
Me: "I don't really like gambling. I prefer the place as a restaurant."
Assistant: "As long as you come back and gamble in future, or spend your money on food here."
Assistant: "I bet you make a living off the casinos."
Alex K: "Let's go."
I don't make a living, but it does cover the cost of a night out. I've been going to casinos lately because there's no drunk people, the bars are nice inside, the music isn't too loud and they're easy to get to. On top of that, while out with friends having drinks and enjoying free top quality food, I've made £40 from the casinos this week.
We're driving to Didsbury in the car.
Me: "One guy once said to me at the Circus Casino - You don't go to casinos to lose money."
Alex K: "It's true. We're playing by their rules."
Me: "They make the rules. They encourage people to come to the casino to win, yet they don't like it when I make money."
Summary and venue reviews: Friday 29th May
Click here for Season 5 Index
Medium busy. Clientele: smart casual. Décor: 10/10.
Notes: A very nicely decorated laid out venue with free buffet, rooftop terrace and £1 a pint.
Very busy. Clientele: smart casual. Décor: 7/10.
Notes: A charity event with a free buffet. Very well organised and excellent staff. Lots of donations to charity.
Medium busy. Clientele: smart casual. Décor: 7/10.
Notes: Using the £20 no lose voucher on roulette it's possible to make £9.50 guaranteed by covering the board.
Grosvenor Whitworth Street